Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Sunday, December 04, 2011

A canonical comment on Newt’s oddball remark

I have family and friends who (Deo gratias) do the hard work of following closely the ebb and flow of political theories and the rise and fall of politicians who back them. Many abler than I have already weighed in against Newt Gingrich’s conversation-stopping comments to the effect the human life begins at implantation [of an embryonic human being in the mother’s uterine wall]. I simply offer a canonical reinforcement of their remarks.

In 1988, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts authoritatively (authentice) answered the question about whether deliberate destruction of pre-natal human beings “by any method at any time after the moment of conception” (quocumque modo et quocumque tempore a momento conceptionis) was an excommunicable offense under Canon 1398. The Council’s answer, approved by Pope John Paul II on 23 May 1988, was Yes. See AAS 80 (1988) 1818-1819.

Since that ruling there has not been, of course, a rush to excommunicate women for, say, miscarriages, etc., etc., and not just because such things were never threatened in the first place, but for simple legal reasons that basically leave hard cases (and there are hard cases, although miscarriage is not one) in the confessional, where they belong, while preserving the principle that innocent human life, at any stage of dependency and irrespective of how it came to be, can never be intentionally targeted for death. CCC 2271, 2275.

Update, 5 December: Well, this is interesting.